Randy Sitter, 1961-2007

On September 19/2007, Randy Sitter, Professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University was tragically lost at sea. He is survived by his wife Deanna, his parents and his brother.

Randy's brilliant life came to an unexpected end during a kayak trip to Bellingham Bay in Washington state. Randy was a cautious kayaker, and he had intended to get some exercise on that warm sunny morning. He had brought his laptop along where he could catch up on some university work and listen to some music. This was a very good time in Randy's life; he had just completed his term as Editor of the prestigious journal Technometrics, he was looking forward to a sabbatical and he had expanded his research efforts to include a number of new and exciting initiatives. Although the facts of the day are unknown, Randy was presumed lost in an accidental drowning.

Randy Sitter was raised in Prince George, a small town in northern British Columbia. He went on to do a BSc in Mathematics (1984) and an MSc in Statistics (1986) at the University of British Columbia. He then completed a PhD in Statistics (1990) at the University of Waterloo. Immediately upon graduation, Randy was appointed to a tenure-track position in Statistics at Carleton University. Randy returned to his home province in 1995 with a position at Simon Fraser University.

In the world of Statistics, Randy Sitter was a "star" in every sense of the word. As an academic, Randy was one of the very best statisticians in Canada and was an international leader in Sampling Theory and Industrial Statistics. He held many grants through which he supported and supervised a large cohort of graduate students. As a mentor, Randy helped to get the very best from his students and his colleagues, and he did so in a caring and generous manner. He taught the Department to "think big". Randy helped grow and transform SFU Statistics into one of the very best Statistics units in Canada. Randy supervised more than 20 graduate students with six PhD students going on to academic positions at prestigious institutions.

Randy Sitter was a prolific researcher. He had over 50 refereed publications with most of these papers appearing in the very best Statistics journals. Randy's career took off from the very start. He was elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2002 at a very young 41 years of age. He was awarded the CRM-SSC prize in Statistics in 2004, a major award in recognition of professional accomplishments during one's first fifteen years post-doctorate. In the analysis of complex survey data, Randy was a pioneer and he was expert in the development of resampling methods for variance estimation. Randy was also expert in aspects in the design of experiments where he developed theory and algorithms for the discovery and analysis of various designs.

Although Randy was devoted to the academic pursuits, he had many outside interests and there was a balance in Randy's life. In particular, his committment to family was great as he regularly hosted nieces and nephews to his home for extended periods. He was a loving husband and his home was designed so that the basement portion served as living space for his parents. Randy was also an avid sportsman. He was a poor golfer but an excellent basketball player. In fact, he took a one year's leave from his undergraduate program at UBC to return to Prince George to play for the College of New Caledonia. Randy was also a skilled tradesman who was competent in many aspects of home renovation.

With Randy's untimely death, the discipline of Statistics has suffered a great loss. Randy's colleagues have suffered an even greater loss. Randy was the heart-and-soul of our Department. He was a basketball player on our Departmental team for many years, he regularly hosted parties at his home and it was always easy to squeeze a free coffee from Randy. Randy Sitter was passionate about many causes and was extremely effective in getting tasks done. He was honest, hard-working and fun-loving.

We miss him greatly.

To see Randy's webpage, current as of 2007, click here

The Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science has created the "Sitter Achievement Award" to be given to a graduate student in the Department who best typifies some of the qualities that were hallmarks of Randy's exceptional life. Donations to the award are most humbly accepted.

Memorial Session for Randy Sitter

Statistical Society of Canada annual meeting, June 2009, Vancouver
Chair: Charmaine Dean, Simon Fraser University

Organizers: Charmaine Dean & Derek Bingham, Simon Fraser University


  • Arden Miller, University of Auckland
    Using Folded Over Designs to Consider Interactions
  • J.N.K. Rao, Carleton University
    Impact of Randy Sitter’s Contributions to Sample Survey Theory and Practice
  • Richard Lockhart, Derek Bingham & Charmaine Dean, Simon Fraser University
    Randy Sitter: His Career, His Humour and His Many Accomplishments